In a record turnout, around 67 per cent of the electorate voted today in the fiercely fought Delhi assembly polls billed as a litmus test for ruling Congress ahead of upcoming Lok Sabha polls in the first-ever triangular contest in which traditional rival BJP and debutant Aam Aadmi were in the fray.
In an unprecedented exercise, voting went on till 9.30 PM --four-and-a-half hours past the 5 PM voting deadline--when the last ballot was cast by waiting voters in a booth in Okhla Assembly segment.
The stunning voter turnout that shattered the previous highest of 61.75 per cent in the first elections to the state Assembly in 1993 saw voting hours being extended in several polling booths beyond the closing time of 5 PM as around 1.7 lakh voters were still waiting in winding queues.
"The turnout has been around 66 per cent. The election was incident free," Delhi's Chief Electoral officer Vijay Dev told a press conference, an hour past the voting deadline.
"The young have broken all stereotypes. They want to vote," he added.
Counting of votes will be taken up on Sunday.
Election Commission officials estimated that the turnout could be around 67 per cent in the final tally.
The high-decibel battle that saw BJP pull all stops to halt Congress from getting a fourth consecutive term and greenhorn AAP, trying to corner the two mainstream parties on corruption issue, ended on a historic high with an estimated 80 lakh out of the 1.19 crore eligible voters sealing the fate of 810 candidates.
It was for the first time Delhi has witnessed such an overwhelming response in elections to its assembly.
In the first assembly elections in 1993, Delhi witnessed a turnout of 61.75 percent. In 1998, it recorded the lowest turnout at just over 48 percent voting.
In the 2003 elections, over 53 percent voters cast their ballots, and in 2008, over 57 percent polling was recorded.
Results, which will be out Dec 8, could have a role in deciding who gets to rule India in the Lok Sabha polls next year.
The first one to react to the high voter turnout was BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi, who had held six campaign rallies in Delhi.
"We have seen yet another successful demonstration of the strength of our democracy over the past few weeks. Congrats to the Indian voter! I congratulate Election Commission of India for spearheading a spectacular effort in conducting the polls," he tweeted.
According to experts, the overwhelming response - including from over 400,000 first time voters - indicates that people have cast their ballot for change, better governance and clean leadership.
This, they said, also indicates that the wind is blowing against three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and she could be voted out due to a strong anti-incumbency factor.
South Delhi, that usually records low turnout, saw record voting, especially in Greater Kailash, where nearly 80 percent polling was registered, a record in itself.
The prestigious New Delhi constituency, where Dikshit and Kejriwal are battling it out, polling was 74 percent - up from 56 percent in 2008.
The New Delhi constituency also became the first in city to have a paper trail which enables voters to verify if their vote has been recorded correctly.
Burari in north Delhi had the highest number of candidates at 23, while Patel Nagar in West Delhi had just four contestants.
Many Bollywood celebrities like Neha Dhupia, Aditi Rao Hydari and Dia Mirza tweeted to persuade Delhiites to step out and vote.
There were some glitches too.
At K. Kamraj Marg polling station in New Delhi area, former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had to wait for at least an hour to cast his vote due to a faulty Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).
There were reports of malfunctioning of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in some parts of the city but they were rectified, election officials said. The EVM at polling booth in Aurangazeb Lane, where Rahul cast his vote, malfunctioned when polling began. "We replaced a total of 112 EVMs," said an EC official.
The Delhi poll ends the month long phase of assembly elections in five states -- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram and Chhattisgarh. Polling in all these states were over 70 percent, while in Mizoram it notched 82 percent.
While Congress was seeking another term under Sheila Dikshit, BJP and AAP were led by their chief ministerial candidates Harsh Vardhan and bureaucrat-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal respectively for the 70-member assembly.
Vice President Hamid Ansari, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Dikshit, Kejriwal and Vardhan were among the early voters.
Facing the toughest battle of her political career, Dikshit said she is keeping her "fingers crossed".
Price rise and anti-incumbency are seen as major issues that could pose a threat to Congress which is in power in the city for the past 15 years.
After casting her vote, Sonia exuded confidence of her party's fourth straight victory in the Delhi polls. "We will win," she said with a smile after casting her vote at Nirman Bhavan polling booth.
Rahul said Dikshit has "done a lot of good work in Delhi. I think she will do well."
Vardhan said he is "100 per cent confident" of BJP regaining power.
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